Keeler Turntable ???? …. Help

North American Narrow Gauge; West of the Rockies (including Canada; Mexico).
Post Reply
Randy Hees
Posts: 464
Joined: Mon Aug 17, 2009 7:07 pm

Keeler Turntable ???? …. Help

Post by Randy Hees » Fri Jul 13, 2018 8:24 am

In May 2014, a couple of days before our Lone Pine conference, our (then) president asked a question about the location of the Keeler turntable on the SPng yahoo group… Now in July 2018, the question has been asked again

Hello all,

We have all heard that there was a turntable located at Keeler (assumed to be) somewhere in the vicinity of the engine house. We have not seen a depression in the ground that resembles a turntable pit as we see at other locations. Why not?

We have also heard that it is possibly the turntable at Keeler was moved to Owenyo, the one we see in so many photographs of Owenyo. Considering that Owenyo did not become a railroad location until 1908 or so, why don't we see any photographs of the turntable at Keeler before being moved to Owenyo. I mean there are 1000's of photographs of this railroad.

I have a photo dated 1904 of Keeler, but there is no turntable in the view. Maybe the date is incorrect on the photo.

What evidence or documentation is there that tells us there was a turntable at Keeler??? Any thoughts, documentation, photos, or anything else regarding this mystery turntable????


A few days (and 12 email messages) later Dennis made the following (tongue in cheek) pronouncement…

to -spng-
OK all, we have put together a so called inspection team and we are going out to Keeler to look for any signs of the turntable pit during the conference. Randy, Andrew, Mike, Ron, Ellen, and myself so far...We might even let Brian come along..


I find these sort of historical mysteries fun… and the president appointed me to the committee…as a result I have been doing a bit of research…

Keeler & Owenyo Turntables – A Mystery… A time line with notes and sources

Introduction… our Common Knowledge says that the Keeler turntable was built in 1883, and removed in 1910 when the Jawbone branch reached Owenyo to be reinstalled at Owenyo. Unfortunately, a review of the 1916 ICC valuation survey does not show a turntable at either Keeler or Owenyo, and does not list a turntable out of service awaiting installation elsewhere (it does list other material not yet installed). To date, our research has not produced a photo of the Keeler turntable (there is a rumor of a photo…) , nor does it identify the location of the turntable in Keeler. As noted in Dennis’ original question we have looked… we can’t find evidence on the ground…
This leaves two open questions; 1) Was there a turntable in Keeler, and if so where and 2) what is the origin and history of the Owenyo turntable… I suspect that there are two unrelated answers…
The first question, concerning the Keeler turntable, can likely be answered yes, there was a turntable in Keeler, based on (so far 2nd hand) newspaper reports, but particularly on an invoice from the V&T for repairs on the Hawley turntable… (some have suggested that the invoice may relate to a 24” gauge turntable used by Inyo Development, but IDCo wouldn’t be founded until 1886, 2 or three years after the repair invoice was issued)
If we accept that there was a Keeler turntable, it still leaves the questions of, where it was located and when it was removed open. It appears that the wye in Keeler was early, so the need for the turntable was limited, and it likely just went out of use before being removed… It was likely long gone before Owenyo needed a turntable, and logically did not end up there… A map in Ferrell’s Southern Pacific Narrow Gauge (p 124) shows the turntable on the engine house lead, directly in front of the engine house… During the convention at least two groups visited Keeler, looking for evidence of the turntable… none was found on the engine house lead or elsewhere, so the question of location is still open…
The origin story for the Owenyo turntable says it was moved from somewhere else… generally Keeler… The style of the Owenyo turntable, without a ring rail supports the idea of an earlier turntable, likely from the C&C… in general SP turntables used a ring rail. The Laws turntable, built under SP management in 1906 has a ring rail… The Owenyo turntable built c.1919 does not…
If the Owenyo turntable is not the Keeler turntable, then where is it from… There were a limited number of turntables on the Carson & Colorado, later SPng Railroad… in the Owens Valley turntables were found at Keeler, Owenyo, Laws, and Hammil. The original Laws turntable dates to the opening of the railroad in 1882… but that original turntable was moved in 1889 to Hammil… leaving Laws without a turntable until a new SP style turntable was installed in 1906. The Hammil turntable was in use until 1913… In 1916 a wye was installed (and shown on the 1916 ICC Val. maps…) This leaves the question about where the Hammil turntable was between 1913 and 1919 if in fact it is the turntable found later found in Owenyo…
Outside the Owens Valley the C&C didn’t use many turntables… One was found in Candelaria at the end of the branch, where it was presumably out of use by 1905… The Candelaria branch was not scrapped until 193X. We can presume that the Candelaria turntable would also have been available…
Both the Hammil and Candelaria turntables would have been the same design as later found at Owenyo.

March 1875 US Gov. land grant to the C&C for Keeler includes right of way for wye (in the shape of the wye)
August 1, 1883, The C&C reaches Keeler, and presumably a turntable is built “Even though the depot, turntable and engine house were still under construction, regular train schedules to Hawley (Keeler) were initiated on August 1, 1883.” (Myrick, Railroads of Nevada and Eastern CA, Vol 1, p 174, submitted by Bob Wallace via SPng Yahoo group)

Dec. 14, 1883, V&T Invoice to C&C for turntable repairs at Hawley (in Turner, Narrow gauge Nostalgia, p 57 or High Country Narrow Gauge, p 48, submitted by Alan Borchardt via SPng Yahoo group)

1885, Inyo Development Co. organized. 2.5 miles of 24” gauge railroad including a turntable built.

November 7, 1889, 50’ turntable from Bishop (Laws) moved to Hammil (Inyo Register from Serpico, p 107)

March 1900 C&C sold to Southern Pacific

Oct 8, 1903, Inyo Register reports that the turntable at Hammil will be moved to Laws (this apparently didn’t happen) (Serpico, p 107)

SP employee timetable of 11-12-09 indicates a turntable at Hammil. (Brian Norden)

Oct 1910 Jawbone branch built to Owenyo, town founded, railroad facilities built.

Sept/Nov 1913, turntable at Hammil removed (Serpico p 108)

SP employee timetable of 6-15-15 does not indicate turning facilities at Hammil (water and phone listed) (Brian Norden)

1916 ICC Valuation – maps show at
Keeler: wye (land for wye granted 1875), no turntable
Owenyo: std gauge wye, no turntable
Laws: 56’ turntable (with ring rail)
Hammil: wye (land purchased June 1916)

Between August 1919 & Feb 1920, a turntable was installed at Owenyo by SP (per Bader, via SPng Yahoo group)

SP employee timetable of 11-14-20 indicates a wye at Hammil (Brian Norden)

1947-48 Owenyo turntable removed (Serpico)

Owenyo turntable does not have a ring rail. SP turntables generally used a ring rail, while C&C turntables did not (by 1916 the Laws turntable did). This suggests that the Owenyo turntable was older, built by the C&C, and moved from another location (photo of interest, Turner, Narrow gauge Nostalgia, p 57 or High Country Narrow Gauge, p 48, submitted by Alan Borchardt) shows Owenyo turntable.

Photo of interest, Myrick Nevada & Eastern CA, p 191, showing caboose/business car No 2 with a turntable in the foreground. Location believed to be Hammil… A frame (shadow) with a pit with vertical boards, no ring rail.

Finally, in May 2014, the "team" did walk the ground looking both for evidence of a turntable, (we found none) and separately, where such a turntable (assuming a 50' "standard" C&C gallows turnable) could be located... We were carrying a 100' tape measure, and ICC track maps which include real estate information... and were trying to see if the turntable could be fit on the engine house lead (it would but would likely interfere with the location of the ash pit)... We came to the conclusion that it might best fit on the turntable lead, beyond the engine house... where the ground sloped away, so no pit would be required, so less ground disturbance would have occured, so less evidence might be left, which while is not a great location but not unknown. This would also place it out of sight, so possibly less likely to be photographed. That location would put it beyond the railroad's right of way... strangely, a corner of the engine house extends off the railroad's right of way, onto lots number 5 & 6 in town, which are NOT owned by the railroad. I note that if on the turntable lead beyond the engine house that we could predict within a few feet where the turntable center pin and associated foundation would have been located... and did search for that, and did not find it...
Randy Hees

Director, Nevada State Railroad Museum, Boulder City
Railway Preservation News
Chasing old trains where ever I may find them...

Brian Norden
Posts: 292
Joined: Thu Sep 03, 2009 11:40 pm

Re: Keeler Turntable ???? …. Help

Post by Brian Norden » Wed Jul 17, 2019 9:21 pm

Comment I recall hearing about the Laws turntable from the people who worked on the replica turntable at Orange Empire. The style/design to the "spider" center casting on the bottom of the table or bridge is different from the design shown in the Southern Pacific drawings. This probably meaning that this casting was reused from an older table even through the upper works are in the SP design. All the castings for the TT at Perris are from the patterns created for the TT at NSRM in Carson City and developed from the SP drawings at CSRM.

Brian Norden
Brian Norden

Posts: 167
Joined: Fri Oct 02, 2009 4:30 pm

Re: Keeler Turntable ???? …. Help

Post by Solomani » Thu Jul 25, 2019 10:27 am

Thanks Randy, Brian and team. This is an interesting read.


Post Reply